Ruja Ignatova, who in the past dubbed herself the “Cryptoqueen,” is now sitting with a fancy crown in a new royal court: the FBI’s top 10 most wanted.
FBI officials and federal prosecutors announced Ignatova’s new designation in a press conference Thursday. Ignatova was charged in 2019 with wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering for her part in the OneCoin crypto company that prosecutors alleged was just a ponzi scheme.
Michael Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director-in-charge for New York declined to answer Reuters’ questions whether they had any leads, but said Ignatova “left with a tremendous amount of cash,” adding, “money can buy a lot of friends.”
Ignatova was part of a Bulgaria-based crypto company called OneCoin. The company claimed they were performing a regular crypto mining operation—generating new tokens added to a blockchain—and pumped out $3.78 billion in revenue from the end of 2014 to the middle of 2016. But despite the upward momentum, investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice reported that OneCoin’s value was rigged internally, that the coins were essentially worthless, and users could not even trace ownership of the coins. The DOJ alleged those at the head of the company made nearly $2.5 billion in profit that they squirreled away in company bank accounts.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, told reporters Ignatova capitalized “on the frenzied speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency.”
In an FBI-provided video of Ignatova speaking at a London company event dated June, 2016, Ignatova boasted about her two million active users, adding “no other cryptocurrency has as many users as we do,”
Bloomberg reported that after Ignatova grew suspicious that the feds were onto her, she fled to Greece and then investigators lost track of her.
In 2019, the U.S. unsealed an indictment against Ignatova, charging her with the previously mentioned litany of financial crimes. That same year, Konstantin Ignatova, one of OneCoin’s founders and Ruja’s brother, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Konstantin managed to get a plea deal, and though his sentencing was set for May 13, his attorneys adjourned the date for 90 days so he could further cooperate with authorities.
The Cryptoqueen has evaded police custody and remains at large to this day. So, the FBI says it’ll pay up to a $100,000 reward for any info that leads to an arrest.
In addition, U.S. prosecutors previously convicted former corporate lawyer Mark Scott of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud for laundering around $400 million for the company. Ruja Ignatova testified against Scott at his trial. Scott is contesting his guilty verdict by claiming Ruja lied on the stand, according to Bloomberg.